An interview with Toadette, pt 2 : An animator’s reel making of

Toadette, who I interviewed for my sakuga series, is not just a writer, but also a maker of animator’s reels. Here, they were kind enough to chronicle the making of a titanic work : a complete retrospective of the career of legendary Madhouse animator Manabu Ohashi.

One day, I noticed that Manabu Ōhashi, in spite of being such a legend in the industry, didn’t have any reels devoted to him. So I figured his 70th birthday might’ve been a good chance to rectify that in a truly special way, with an outright retrospective. 

Regarding my music choices for it, I specifically chose composers who had animation ties in some way; I wanted to make a sort of international collaboration putting Ohashi’s work into perspective with the rest of the world. To get in more detail about them :

-The Tomica Simović music was a reflection of how I was working on my mega-article about Zagreb Films at the time, and how he specifically composed his scores to be evocative of the films themselves (you can’t write off his work in Nedeljko Dragić’s films, for instance, as being mere background music). The horribly unsettling Visitors from the Galaxy music was perfect for the eerie otherworldliness of the gekiga gangsters, the Little Mermaid, Noroi, the Fire G-Men characters, and the poor girl in The Twelve Months being forced to wander into a raging snowstorm, and same goes for the music from Joško Marušić’s Fisheye in sync with the opening to Cloud and a pivotal scene in The Dagger of Kamui (in the second part). His Professor Balthazar music, meanwhile, is the gold standard for children’s TV series music imo (two tracks from the episode *Maestro Koko* are at the very end of the reel, set mostly to Ōhashi’s anim. for Rita & Whatsit).

-Herbie Mann’s extraordinary music from his Stone Flute album may seem at first sight to be simple smooth jazz, but there’s a lot of evocative colors and subtleties and little side melodies, making them almost perfectly suited to synchronization with equally charming animation (like the cat in the Unico sequence). As it happens, the great animator Ishu Patel used the very first track on the album, “In Tangier”, as the soundtrack for his transcendent film Afterlife ; on the album, this segues directly into the first Mann track I used, “Paradise Beach”, so you could say I deliberately wanted that part of the reel to be a sequel of sorts to Afterlife, hehe. (I actually wrote about Patel’s films earlier that year)

-Isao Tomita was, of course, a frequent collaborator with Tezuka (he did the music for the first two Animerama films among other things), but also a great innovator in electronic music; hence my use of one of his most well-known tracks, “Arabesque No. 1”, to open the second part of the reel. (It was actually used as the theme song of the PBS astronomy show Star Gazers years ago.) Additionally, the big discovery I made while making the reel was Ōhashi’s sequence for the Jungle Emperor Leo movie, for which Ōhashi claimed Tomita specifically composed the music to fit his animation; hence, I preserved the original music there! (I like how Tomita and Tomica’s names sound so similar (Tomica in Croatian is pronounced “Tomitsa”)….both were great musical innovators.)

-Maurice Blackburn was, of course, the main musical collaborator with the legendary Canadian animator Norman McLaren, all the way up to his final film Narcissus in 1983.

-The great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson was McLaren’s collaborator on his seminal abstract drawn-on-film work Begone Dull Care.

-Contemporary Czech composer Jan Klusák is someone I owe to recency bias of the time, hehe. I chose him because he was responsible for the music in Jiří Brdečka’s incredibly unsettling film Pomsta (Revenge), which left a profound impression on me at the time I watched it.

To go back to the actual reel…work on that began early November 2018, and by the 6th of that month (my birthday!) I had a rough cut of the first part to preview to Mew and Meizhan in our groupwatch that day.

To elaborate : the one part of the reel that I’m not satisfied with at all is the whole stretch with Oscar Peterson’s music, as too often the music doesn’t match with the visuals and that’s when the reel comes dangerously close to becoming just a generic clipshow with music in the background. But there’s a good reason: it ended up being absolutely the most difficult part in terms of getting the right clips, I practically killed myself making last-minute corrections to it. 

In case you’re wondering about the chaos that occurred in the days just before the Ohashi reel was uploaded…..after I completed the third part of my reel, I entrusted Meizhan to show the completed parts to Ōhashi himself (his Twitter DMs are open!) and ask if there were any mistakes. Unfortunately, it turned out on the night of January 14th (about a week after I had told him to DM Ohashi) that he *hadn’t reached out to Ohashi yet*, just days before the deadline. (He got right to it at that point.) Luckily, Ohashi did respond just hours later! 

Unfortunately, in the second part I included a swordfight from The Dagger of Kamui that turned out not to be his, and in the third part it turned out Anipages writer (and senpai) Ben Ettinger was wrong when he wrote years ago that Ohashi animated the opening kung-fu fight in the mostly-lamentable Chinese Ghost Story. I ended up pulling an all-nighter to try and get things back in order asap, iirc I stayed up until 4 am and got less than 5 hours of sleep. (That would prove to be just the first time I did something like that…) I removed the Chinese Ghost Story clip altogether and rearranged the remaining clips in the third part accordingly, while in the second part – here’s the kicker – I made the mistake of trying to replace the original swordfight clip with a sequence that, as it turned out, was actually known to have been animated by Shinji Ōtsuka. (the bright side is that in the process I added in Tomica Simović’s haunting string music for the aforementioned film Fisheye). 

Soooo I had Ian send the revised second and third parts to Ohashi that night, in which I *wisely* decided to check in earlier than usual to make up for the lost sleep and stress and stuff. But the next morning – hours before the reel is supposed to be up – I find the update that I had accidentally included the Ōtsuka sequence from Kamui (!!!) but thankfully this time Ohashi actually went and attached pictures of his scenes in Kamui. 

So I spend that morning salvaging the second part *again* to include these sequences, and with so little time I unfortunately could not pay as much attention to actually making sure the visuals and the music fit. By noon or so I have the complete reel rendered – HAPPINESS. 

Alas, I was still committed to posting my thread commemorating the 35th anniversary of the great Zagreb animator Vladimir Jutriša’s death that very day even in spite of these Ōhashi-related delays, and while I did have the tweets themselves written I didn’t have the pictures. So for the next few hours I spend time going through the Zagreb films and taking appropriate pictures (and I had to modify a lot of them in MS Paint afterwards to remove the black borders), and then I basically dump the whole thread in a span of just 12 minutes. Here’s the thread in question – hard to believe it was hours before the Ōhashi reel…

Then I check on the completed reel and discover that I made a mistake of some kind (I forget what it was), so I have to modify and re-render the second part AGAIN, then render the merged three parts AGAIN. It was while this final version was rendering (iirc) that I made this tweet.

At 5 PM my time (6 PM EST) I have to pick up my younger brother from school, then once I’m home I immediately get to uploading the reel. And so it is that the whole project is completed at the last possible second….phew. (Alas, even then an obvious mistake slipped through in that extremely troublesome second part….one annoying glitch associated with the video editing program I used is that on occasion the clip-identifier on the bottom-left corner of the screen would disappear for no apparent reason. Such it is that an extended clip from *Cloud* has no identifier, even in the final version.) Ye, this all sounds extremely crazy, but it’s a testament to how devoted I am to this sort of thing….

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